You sit back slowly in your chair, and push the laptop slightly to one side and mutter 'It doesn't matter' under your breath, and that's maybe some kind of silly reassurance because at this point, at this particular point, it's the entire focus of everything and of course it matters. Otherwise why are you sitting up at 12.37am instead of going to bed, when you had promised yourself 49 minutes ago that you were better just leaving it to another time? The sensible head in you nodding like some kind of dog on the parcel shelf of a car, always there and definitely ignored. While the second guessing gnome just sits in the corner and laughs because you promised it would never get to this, it was always going to be fun.
It wasn't always like this, you were able to do five things at once, and everything wasn't easy but it definitely wasn't as hard as it is now. Everything seemed fresh and new and mistakes were all learning opportunities, never set backs. You laughed as you were posting on social media and everyone around you was in the same boat and the waves were crashing against the bow, but it was fine because we had dolphins. You get pointed at and laughed with. You get pointed at and people throw compliments at you for entertaining them, or making them think or just making that mundane life trudge that little bit better. You see nothing but growth, and nothing but the potential of the numbers just getting bigger and bigger. You get an email from someone who's name you know asking if they can send you a game, or work with you in some kind of new exciting opportunity. You spend hours sitting crossed legged in front of the door to your home, waiting for the courier to deliver that first parcel and treat it like your first pet when it does arrive. You make promises to take pictures and write stories and spend time to truly understand it and get to know it. So when it comes to creating something, it's going to be wonderful. You take far too many photographs and delete just as many in order to get things perfect.
It is. It's glorious. It's also maybe not as good as it could of been. You wince a bit. You cringe a bit, and make internal notes on how to make things better and how to improve. You start to look at YouTube videos that talk about editing software. The next time you get the chance to upgrade your phone you make sure it has a damn good camera. You get into a routine. Creating one night and then editing the next. You're in some kind of production line. You have pre-created filters, or sounds or overlays. You start to become a 'regular on the scene', you even start to pick up the champions who retweet and share and always comment on your work. Then one of your Grail publishers follows you back on twitter, which leads to a butterflied tummy conversation through DM, and yes, they are not only aware of you, but they like some of your stuff, they love your style, and so they were wondering if little old you would be interested in maybe looking at their next up and coming title? You draft and delete the reply some seventeen times before sending a quiet and polite 'Yes please. How do we make this happen?'
Logos get tidied up, artwork redesigned. Guests on the podcast become something of a definite solid thing that you are no longer chasing or begging. You end up with a waiting list and promises to get someone on as soon as you can, while on the other hand chasing through your own personal trophy lists of those who's head you'd like to see displayed proudly on your wall. You attend you first con and people who you've never met in real life treat you like friends and others nervously start conversations with you asking if you're 'That Person from there'. You buzz. You feel like you are finally home in a place where you belong, and all based around something you love to do. You wonder secretly if this could maybe be your job, while conscious that you know that you're already doing things for your channel in your lunch breaks already. You're known for one thing, but why can't you be known for everything?
People hint at supporting you with money, and so you set up a Patreon but never go as far to promote it because that would be just the biggest crassest thing. They come, and it's humbling that people would take a choice to give you some of their hard earned wage. And so you update all the time, keeping them posted and trying to keep them in the loop, this joyous inner circle that has decided to make you glow. You get your first email from a company asking you to review their 'highly offensive adult party game.' You turn them down because it's not your bag and you've got principles. You get an email from someone offering to pay you for a review, and you turn them down as well because you want to be ethical and you've got principles. You nod your head to a sponsorship eventually because principles taste like shit on toast and well, you've worked so hard, might as well get some benefit. And new equipment, because the lighting in the last video was shocking.
All the while the channel that started it all continues to grow and the numbers continue to climb. You lie to yourself and say the stats don't matter, while at the same time you're able to tell what day of the month it is by views or downloads or likes for that particular day. You open up an Instagram account because you want to make sure no one else takes your brand name and then proceed to grab a Tiktok account for the same reason. You move from Gmail to domain name email addresses. Someone in another country asks if you're going to be attending the local major con because they would love to meet you in person, just to meet the person. You blush and wish you could, but maybe one day it will happen if things keep going the way they are. They're going well. If you just keep on going. You're still having fun. You're still having fun right?
Someone mentions opening a group on Facebook so your audience can have their space. Someone else mentions Discord and soon enough you've now got a community, some additional responsibilities to make sure that these people are entertained as well. Everyone has a common interest and so it works. You don't notice though, because you forgot to post some close up 'at an angle' picture of the latest game you've been sent to review, and now you're panicking they'll never want to deal with you again. So you post two or three times instead in different places in the hope that appeases them and they don't scrub you off their list. Meanwhile the games keep coming because you don't want to disappoint by saying no. You write your first scathing review and tell yourself repeatedly that this is because you are being honest and straight talking over a lunchtime, while spending the next day pondering if you should use Kind Regards or Best Regards while asking to be considered for a review copy from someone who doesn't really give a damn because this will be the 38th email they've got just today asking to be added as a reviewer. You're just another clever thought out name in a sea of clever thought out names, but your numbers are strong because you've put in the work and you deserve it.
You become known as the person at the club that always has something new to play, which is all good until someone pipes up and asks if it ok that we actually play something that we all know and aren't learning for the first time. Some people don't like to break in new shoes every single week, regardless of how comfortable they're advertised as. You agree because its your gaming group, while inside you're panicking on how to get this played the five times that you've always managed to play before. Others are secretly happy that you're not going to be stopping play on a regular basis in order to start taking pictures with your mobile phone or wrestling with draft rules from a Kickstarter prototype that doesn't have a how to play video to watch.
Then the cracks appear. You mess up. You forget to post something on time, or put an episode out on the wrong day, or misread a rule and reviewed a game unfairly. No one notices and no one cares, but you tear yourself up inside and realise that maybe you're stretching yourself too thin. At the same time persuade yourself that you just have to be organised. All the time looking at the numbers that seem to have stopped climbing so high and you can't see the progress and everything you promised that wouldn't matter does. You start comparing your figures to others, and fight the jealously when you see someone else doing well on a channel that you've only ever paid lip service too. You post apologies on Patreon for posting so irregularly with the apologies for not posting something exclusive just for those who support you. You buy a web cam to start streaming on Twitch and you never get as far as setting it up, because you never can find the time now.
The review games begin to pile up and you realise that you're playing to get them played and critiqued instead of playing them for what they were intended to be. The irony being that you're no longer playing for fun. Remembering that the fun and relaxation and joy that games brought to you was the very reason that you decided to go down the path of creating in the first place. The reason, you tell yourself, is that you wanted to be a beacon in the sea of games media, but just like a huge chunk of butter, you've spread yourself so thin, you've ended up as an embarrassing greasy patch on the carpet.
You come across as tired and that's because you're drained and exhausted and this feels like a job, and have secret conversations saying you're thinking of taking a break which surprises no one. Maybe its because that new format you tried didn't pan out or the last piece you spent six hours putting together got a paltry amount of engagement. Maybe its the guilt of knowing you used to be this person that was all fun and you thought that growth would be forever and nothing would ever fucking matter, because this was all about a hobby. You see people you admire announce they're taking breaks, and notice with sadness that the only departure announcements people give a damn about are the ones at the Airport. Those spaces that appear when someone steps back are quickly taken up by others, waiting in the wings, fighting for a chance to be that shining sun on the dogs arse.
Well, take it from me. It is going to be okay. You are going to be okay. We all do this. We all end up basking in the glory we create and sometimes we think that people want us everywhere instead of where they first found us. You're in the hobby+ level of your free time, not only trying to enjoy your hobby but trying to tell people how they can have as much fun as you are. You don't have to be everywhere. You don't have to be chasing the follows or the likes. It's ok to concentrate on what you enjoy. It's bloody difficult to keep on going when you feel you're going nowhere while others seem to be flying high.
Look, you don't need have to have games arriving every second day for you to be important. What is important is that you know how to find that spark that got you doing this in the first place. Which is sitting down in front of a table that has a game on it and play it without obligation or need to capture that time. Be selfish. Keep that fun time to yourself and remind yourself why you want people to hear your voice and be content with them just hearing it from a couple of places, instead of being diluted. Then you'll hopefully be that person that can step back, push the laptop to one side, and smile.